Oh boy! I got to attend the tenth annual West Coast Culinary Symposium, put on by the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). For details on their website, click here. This year it was in Northern California, just north of San Francisco. This is my third symposium and this one was just as lovely as the other two.
The Friday night dinner was potluck, so I cannot name all the good foods I ate, but I will give it a try.
I'll start with the purple cabbage salad, then go clockwise around to a chicken and pomegranate juice dish, then a Transylvanian dish with pork and a "Garlic Harvest Sauce." After that was a sort of baked dumpling, then an onion salad, and a garbanzo bean salad.
To celebrate the Year of the Dog, someone brought an Asian pork dish with rice and pickled vegetables. The tang of the vegetables perfectly complemented the fatty pork.
People were arriving and putting out new food all throughout the evening. I didn't take pictures of everything I tried. Some foods were purchased at stores and some were made at home. It was all tasty. I enjoyed meeting new people and reconnecting with ones I had met at the previous symposia.
One activity I participated in was a garum/liquamen tasting session. This is the Roman Empire era condiment that was very popular. I have posted several times about how I use it (do a site search on "Roman Empire"). Several of us brought what we use: We had two that were made from salted fish parts, the way the Romans made it. There were two store-bought fish sauces. I brought my liquamen that was made from reduced grape juice and store-bought light-colored fish sauce.
The ones that others brought were saltier than mine, but I am not surprised because I am not someone who likes salty foods or salts her foods often and I could adjust the saltiness when I mixed the liquids. The home made garums were good and I was convinced by the makers that I could make mine at home, too, without dealing with stinky, rotting fish in my house. The store-bought one that everyone remarked on was labeled "Anchovy Juice" and it was excellent. Still a bit salty for me but it had a rich, chicken-brothlike flavor that really danced on my taste buds. It was pointed out that it was an expensive item as compared to regular fish sauces but could really be worth it as a flavor boost.
Saturday morning breakfast was some leftovers from the potluck (Hooray! I got to taste some dishes I had missed before!) and some new items to try.
Starting near the top and going clockwise, flatbread with thickened yogurt, rice with chopped pistachios and raisins, an apricot preserved in syrup, someone's homemade cheese, and dried apricots.
A warm, tiny bagel; a garbanzo bean dish like a casserole; another preserved apricot.
Wheat berries with milk and honey, and an eggplant jam. All quite good!
My first class was on a talk about the Transylvanian cookbook. It was written in Hungarian and its translation was crowd-funded. For fun, the instructor had Google translate the recipes list and got some very humorous results. Note: He says Google has improved since then and he doesn't get quite the silly translations any more.
He did show us that the recipes are not silly and gave us a cheese dish, called "túró cake" to try. Click here for the recipe. Look around that blog to see how to make the cheese.
It was tasty; light and savory, with dill.
The second class talked about various cookbooks -- the instructor is both a librarian and an historian with an amazing collection of cookbooks -- and from that I got some interesting online sources: Early English Books Online is fun to look through. It has 60,000 volumes of more than just cookbooks. Archive.org also has a lot of cookbooks, among other things. Medieval Cookery has a list of recipes, books, and other sources.
Next up, lunch!
Starting at the top and going clockwise, meatballs (I think made out of lamb), another garbanzo bean casserole, something with eggplant that was savory and garlicky, chard, a cheese pie sitting on flatbread, and yet another garbanzo bean casserole with meat.
Top left: pickled parsnips (I think); a hummus with cinnamon, nuts, and herbs; couscous; and a thing I thought was a bean of some sort but tasted more like cooked dough. All good!
During lunch, the keynote speaker gave her presentation on "The Food Preparation in the Royal Kitchens of Early Modern Spain." It was good to see the techniques, the equipment, and the recipes. I am now charged up to try to roast butter on a spit!
The next class was on Andalusian flatbreads from the 10th century. (See Cariadoc's Miscellany) One recipe that was fun to watch cooking and to eat was like a stacked pancake, except all the layers were made together! You make a sticky sourdough batter, put a layer on the hot pan and cook it a little while. Then flip it. While that side cooks, spread some batter on the first side. Then flip, and spread more batter. In other words, the whole stack cooks one side at a time, ending up with a thick stack of layers. Then you rotate the stack on its side in the pan and make sure the edges are cooked.
To serve, punch holes into the entire stack and fill them with melted butter and honey. Slice into wedges and serve. The sourdough flavor really stood out and the butter and honey made it scrumptious.
|Slicing to serve. You can see the holes that were filled with butter and honey.|
|See the layers?|
Another flatbread had the interesting technique of rolling it very thin (it had been kneaded a long time!), spreading on melted butter, then roll up like a jelly roll and twisting before using a rolling pin to get it flat again. Once cooked, it had some flaky layers in it.
|Several individual breads, stacked together|
|The flaky layers!|
The last class for the day was on sugar paste sculptures. The instructor is an artist and had made a statue of a man leaning against a tree. In the tree was a reservoir for wine, and a tube that exited from the man's side. Once the wine was in the reservoir, you could pull out the arrow from the man's side and the wine would come out into your cup. Very medieval! We learned a lot about techniques for working with sugar paste.
Dinner, ah, dinner! The recipes were taken from a 13th century Syrian cookbook that has recently been published in English as Scents and Flavors, edited and translated by Charles Perry. In fact, all the recipes made by the cooks for our meals were from this book. You can see the recipe list they used at the bottom of this post.
From the top, clockwise: Some sort of chicken dish, date stuffed with an almond, chunky apple sauce, sweetened carrots, a fava bean dish, pickled cucumbers, and I-don't-know-what in the middle, but it was good.
From the top: a different chicken dish, a turnip or parsnip dish, and a different carrot dish. Again, all good!
The Culinary Symposium cooks did an excellent job redacting these recipes. I hope I can do them at home some time.
After dinner, a couple showed us how they made a stag made of paper mache' that would "bleed" wine when pierced with a spear. In medieval times, the stag would have been made of pastry dough. It was truly impressive to see how they engineered it all.
Sunday morning started with breakfast, which is a good way to use up leftovers.
From the top, chard, date with almond, garbanzo bean casserole, tiny bagel, eggplant jam, and sweetened carrots.
Rice on the left, wheat berries on the right, both sprinkled with chopped pistachios and drizzled with honey.
My first class of the day was on kitchen gardens. This was enlightening because I have a variety of culinary herbs in my garden but now I want more, and to make my garden more decorative! I have ideas on how I could use certain hedges to provide branches for wattle fences, and more.
The last class of the day was on lauzinaj, which is actually several types of sweets from the Middle East. The "dry" lauzinaj are like nut brittles, Both are made from almonds, sugar, and rose water.
|This one is firm.|
|This one is easily broken.|
The other type is a wrapped lauzinaj, which uses a super thin wrapper around a filling of chopped nuts (we had almonds and pistachios), sugar, and rose water. It is then drizzled with untoasted sesame oil and a sugar syrup.
The challenge is making the thin wrappers. You start with a kneaded dough, then put it in water and mash it. This causes the wheat starch to come out, making the water look like milk. After doing this for a while, all that is left of the dough is the gluten, but we want the starch.
Some of the recipes used just water and starch. Some added a beaten egg white. Either way, you have a very thin batter that needs to be mixed regularly to keep the starch suspended. Then you heat up your lightly greased pan, tilt it almost vertically, and pour the batter onto the pan. Most batter goes into a bowl and what stays makes a paper-thin wrapper for the sweet. We experimented with different levels of water and egg white, and managed to get wrappers so thin they were almost transparent.
|Wheat starch in the jar.|
|Right after the batter was poured.|
|Cooking it to get rid of the white part|
|Rolled, on the left. Filled and ready to roll on the right.|
You can see the filling through the wrapper! Yes, that thin! In fact, with practice, some of the wrappers were like cellophane.
This symposium was great fun, just like the other two I attended. The people are nice and intriguing because their interests and expertise run far and wide through the culinary world. I have described the classes I took but there were many others, which you can see on their web site. I am not an SCA member but they have always welcomed me to these events. If you have the opportunity to attend, I encourage you to do so. You will learn, eat, enjoy, and make friends.
Recipes for the meals, as taken from Scents and Flavors. I recommend you buy the book! (I don't profit from this recommendation.) ISBN 978-1-4798-5628-2